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Leaving the Paris Agreement on climate change a lose-lose for the United States, a Mason professor says

October 31, 2019

Andrew Light

The United States is expected to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change on Nov. 4, a move that will hurt our national security and make it more difficult for U.S. companies to compete globally for projects to help countries mitigate the effects of a warming planet, a George Mason University professor said.

“By doing this, [President Trump] has really done a disservice to the country,” said University Professor Andrew Light, director of Mason’s Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, who as a senior advisor on climate change in the Obama administration helped negotiate the landmark agreement. “By making this move he has, frankly, made America less safe. It’s very similar to what we have done in Syria. The United States exits the battlefield, and Russia steps in and fills the gap and becomes the most influential partner in the region.”

Put a map of global political instability over a map of global climate vulnerability, and they would largely be the same, Light said.

“All these places where the United States has a direct interest because of old fashioned security threats are also places that want a strong ally to help them respond to climate change,” he said. “We leave that field by being the only country leaving the Paris agreement ,and we open up that space for others to occupy. And, believe me, China, the [European Union] and even Canada will step in and do that.”

Light also cited a report by the International Finance Corporation that estimated the top 20 developing counties, because of their commitments to the Paris Agreement, created a $23 trillion business investment opportunity between now and 2030.

“This is the biggest growing market in the world, and it’s all actioned by countries participating in the Paris process,” Light said. “But the United States is turning away from that and not using these institutions to make American businesses more competitive.”

“This is not a giveaway to developing counties,” Light added. “This is a way we can grow American jobs. As the United States is leaving that by leaving the Paris Agreement, other countries are flooding in. The Germans are putting their businesses everywhere to get in front of the line about this, and they have the credibility to be there. The United States does not.”

Andrew Light can be reached at 703-993-6530 or alight1@gmu.edu

For more information, contact Damian Cristodero at 703-993-9118 or dcristod@gmu.edu.

About George Mason 

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 38,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.